Facebook – the sharp tool of mob psychology
MANILA — The fictional news stories pop up on Facebook faster than Paterno Esmaquel II and his co-workers can stamp them out.
Rodrigo Duterte, the president of the Philippines, debated a Catholic bishop over using violence to stop illegal drugs — and won. Pope Francis called Mr. Duterte “a blessing.” Prince Harry and his new wife, Meghan Markle, praised him, too. None were true.
False news is so established and severe in the Philippines that one Facebook executive calls it “patient zero” in the global misinformation epidemic. To fight back in this country, the Silicon Valley social media giant has turned to Mr. Esmaquel and others who work for Rappler, an online news start-up with experience tackling fake stories on Facebook.
While Rappler’s fact checkers work closely with Facebook to investigate and report their findings, they believe the company could do much more.
Right – Facebook do more? Never – they rely on eyeballs for their advertising revenue. The best way to get more eyeballs/revenue is to allow spreading of sensationalist fake news.
“It’s frustrating,” said Marguerite de Leon, 32, a Rappler employee who receives dozens of tips each day about false stories from readers. “We’re cleaning up Facebook’s mess.”
On the front lines in the war over misinformation, Rappler is overmatched and outgunned — and that could be a worrying indicator of Facebook’s effort to curb the global problem by tapping fact-checking organizations around the world. Civil society groups have complained that Facebook’s support is weak. Others have said the company doesn’t offer enough transparency to tell what works and what doesn’t.
Facebook says it has made strides but acknowledges shortcomings. It doesn’t have fact checkers in many places, and is only beginning to roll out tools that would scrutinize visual memes, like text displayed over an image or a short video, sometimes the fastest ways that harmful misinformation can spread.
Paterno Esmaquel II, a Rappler reporter, said the false stories on Facebook just kept coming. “We kill one,” he said, “and another one crops up.”CreditJes Aznar for The New York Times
“This effort will never be finished, and we have a lot more to do,” said Jason Rudin, a Facebook product manager.
For fact checkers themselves, the work takes a toll. Members of Rappler’s staff have received death and rape threats. Rappler brought in a psychologist. It debated bulletproofing the windows and installed a second security guard.
The way to end this is to end Facebook and the way to end Facebook is to delete your account.